​10 things we learned watching TLC play their first ever UK show

Chilli and T-Boz deliver brilliant set of hits at their triumphant sold out show last night. Here’s what we learned...

by Hattie Collins
10 May 2017, 9:50am

Once the world's biggest selling girl group (until the Spice Girls usurped them), TLC's legacy is assured. From tomboys in charge covered in condoms (Ooooooohhh… On The TLC Tip) to fierce feminists with a message (CrazySexyCool), their final offering as a three-piece before the sudden death of the inimitable Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes was FanMail, which sold 10 million copies and spawned hits such as No Scrubs and Unpretty.

TLC's work has been truly progressive; they were the first band to get the word 'Aids' into a number one song (Waterfalls). They talked about safe sex. Masturbation. Infidelity. Cosmetic surgery. Identity. Femininity and feminism. In interviews they were as open about the issues that plagued Left Eye as they were about their own bankruptcy. They were a group ahead of their time in so many ways and the power of the trio resounds today; TLC remain timeless. So much so, it's a mystery that it's taken until 2017 for Chilli and T-Boz to play their very first show in the UK. Following their London debut last night at Koko, some 25 years after their debut single Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg, we predict the pair will become a mainstay at festivals thanks to a scintillating set that paid homage to their legacy.

1. T(L)C got places to be...
The show started at the unusually early hour of 8.15. Maybe Chilli fancied an early night? Maybe T-Boz had tele to catch up on? Or (more likely), Koko had a student night starting at 10. Either way, we are not mad at an early set time. Not mad at all.

2. It might be their first show in London, but it's not their only show in London...
Tonight the girls will play a special set at Tiffany & Co. Sorry y'all, it's a private event.

3. Tickets were selling for £100 outside...
That's how much people wanted to see TLC. We even witnessed a fracas among a group of tipsy women trying to barter a tout. The women lost, the tout won. But then, don't they always.

4. TLC got merch. It was really great...
We suspect the CrazySexyCool version might be a little more popular that the t-shirt displaying the image of Chilli and T-Boz today.

5. They received a staggeringly warm welcome...
So loud were the roars that you could genuinely barely hear T-Boz and Chilli sing opener Diggin' On You. It was one of those hairs on the back of the neck moments.

6. They put in a huge, huge effort...
Tbh, we anticipated seeing a DJ and two jaded singers half-heartedly mumbling along to a backing track. What we got was more, so much more. There was a DJ, but there was also a full band with a horn section, six dancers and a lovely split screen with pretty impressive visuals. Not only that, but Chilli and T-Boz rocked choreography to every track, sang live, and were generally just amazing. Far more than a heritage act cobbling together a show for some quick cash, the set was really carefully thought out and brilliantly executed.

7. They are both still utterly peng...
Chilli hasn't aged a day. She has the abs of a 19 year-old.

8. Lisa is gone, but not forgotten...
With the huge and horrible absence of Left Eye, a TLC show could have gone either way, and what could have felt cynical was anything but. Using the screen backdrop, Chilli and T-Boz ensured Lisa's presence was a constant, but they manage to avoid any mawkish overtures, leaving her words to speak the loudest. For each of her solo parts, Left Eye's voice bounced majestically around Koko, the crowd cheering her on. T and C got the balance just right; any more or less might have felt maudlin or cold, instead Lisa is with them, and us, quite literally, in spirit.

9. They bought out a choir for encore Waterfalls and we all died a bit...
It was just perfect.

10. The show is a total joy...
From Red Light Special to No Scrubs, Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg, Creep, Baby-Baby-Baby, Waterfalls, Silly Ho and Unpretty, TLC's UK debut show is 75 minutes of total and utter happiness. Swerving any sniff of has-been or dusty nostalgia, they managing to sound fresh and brilliant and also still so relevant. So many of the messages in their music are completely pertinant today. It makes you wish that all of the current acts that revere nineties acts so much would really actually make music like TLC did. But they don't. TLC, Aaliyah, Mary J, Destiny's Child, in their prime, are untouchable. Tonight's show proved that though they come from another time, TLC are as timely as ever.


Text Hattie Collins
Photography via @mj_hewitt

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